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Governor Calls for Candidate With Experience

September 24, 1987|GEORGE SKELTON | Times Sacramento Bureau Chief

SACRAMENTO — Gov. George Deukmejian on Wednesday excluded television evangelist Pat Robertson and former Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. from his preferred list of Republican presidential contenders, saying they never had held elective office and therefore lacked a "track record."

But the governor, who earlier this year flirted with, but rejected, the idea of running as a favorite son candidate himself, said he will not endorse any presidential aspirant before California's winner-take-all primary next June. He said an endorsement by him would "immediately alienate a lot of Republicans" supporting other candidates and would make it difficult to unite the California GOP behind the party nominee.

Nevertheless, Deukmejian made it clear while answering questions from a small group of newspaper reporters that there are some Republican contenders he prefers over others.

"I personally would be far more comfortable with somebody who had already been in office, where I'd seen how they handled that and dealt with the pressures," he said, speaking of Robertson and Haig.

"I have no problem with any of the candidates who have held elective office," the governor added, referring to Vice President George Bush, Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, New York Rep. Jack Kemp and former Delaware Gov. Pierre S. (Pete) du Pont IV.

During the 45-minute interview in his office, Deukmejian also:

- Said he hopes "sometime in October" to nominate a new state treasurer to replace Jesse Unruh, who died Aug. 4. The governor said "in my own mind" the list of potential nominees has been winnowed from roughly 20 to "about six." Deukmejian would not name the six. But, in answer to another question, he did say that Rep. Daniel E. Lungren (R-Long Beach) "definitely is one of the persons who is under consideration." And, he said, so is a woman, presumably Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach), who frequently is mentioned as a candidate.

- Said he will take a very careful look at the state spending limit to see whether it should be eased. The governor noted that the limit's author, Paul Gann, himself is supporting a proposed ballot initiative to exclude gas tax revenues from the limit's restrictions. "We're going to be sitting down and reviewing the entire area to see what this first real year of experience has produced," the governor said. The limit was approved by voters in 1979, but this is the first year it has resulted in a rebate to taxpayers.

- Said that the Legislature's back-room, secret shenanigans in rushing through a tort "reform" bill with virtually no public hearing on the last night of the legislative session will not affect his deliberations on whether to sign the measure. "The regular (legislative) process is by far the most preferred, but in this situation it just didn't seem to work," the governor said.

- Said that the legislators' increasing practice of holding political fund-raisers in Sacramento when important bills are pending near the end of a legislative session creates "an unfavorable impression" with the public and tarnishes "the institution as a whole." The fund-raisers are financed almost exclusively by special interests and heavily attended by lobbyists. Deukmejian said it would be better if legislators held the fund-raisers in their own districts.

Regarding his preference for a presidential candidate who has held elective office, Deukmejian said: "The voters are going to be looking for somebody who has a track record. . . . You can look at Du Pont, he's been a governor for two terms. Kemp or Bush or Dole, I mean, they've been in government, you can get a pretty good reading."

Robertson, a TV preacher, never has held public office. Haig was President Reagan's first secretary of state, Richard Nixon's White House chief of staff and NATO supreme commander, but he has not previously run for public office. Deukmejian said a presidential nominee should be a proven "political leader. And it's pretty hard to have demonstrated that (leadership) unless you, first of all, have won significant elections and, beyond that, have (shown) how you actually conducted yourself in office."

Deukmejian has been trying to get all six Republican contenders together for a public forum in Orange County sponsored by his new political action committee, Citizens for Common Sense. He said he hopes the event will take place in mid- to late November.

Concerning a new state treasurer, Deukmejian indicated that he will choose a Republican who is "very professional and ethical" and intends to seek a full term in the 1990 election. Office holders who plan to ask voters for another term, he said, have an "incentive" to do "a good job."

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